United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. Campbell, United States District Judge.
has filed a motion for attorneys' fees and non-taxable
expenses. Doc. 106. The motion is fully briefed, and oral
argument will not aid in the Court's decision.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); LRCiv 7.2(f). The Court will grant the
motion in part.
requesting an award of attorneys' fees and non-taxable
expenses must show that it is (a) eligible for an award, (b)
entitled to an award, and (c) requesting a reasonable amount.
See LRCiv 54.2(c). Under the general fee-shifting
provision for federal civil rights cases, “the court,
in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a
reasonable attorney's fee as part of the costs.” 42
U.S.C. § 1988(b). “[A] court's discretion to
deny fees under § 1988 is very narrow and . . . fee
awards should be the rule rather than the exception.”
Herrington v. Cty. of Sonoma, 883 F.2d 739, 743 (9th
Cir. 1989) (internal quotation marks omitted).
determine the reasonableness of requested attorneys'
fees, federal courts generally use the “lodestar”
method. See Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 94
(1989); United States v. $186, 416.00 in U.S.
Currency, 642 F.3d 753, 755 (9th Cir. 2011). The Court
must first determine the initial lodestar figure by taking a
reasonable hourly rate and multiplying it by the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation.
Blanchard, 489 U.S. at 94 (citing Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). The Court next
“determines whether to modify the lodestar figure,
upward or downward, based on factors not subsumed in the
lodestar figure.” Kelly v. Wengler, 822 F.3d
1085, 1099 (9th Cir. 2016). “These factors are known as
the Kerr factors.” Stetson v.
Grissom, 821 F.3d 1157, 1166-67 (9th Cir. 2016) (citing
Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70
(9th Cir. 1975)). Such an adjustment is appropriate
“only in rare or exceptional circumstances.”
Cunningham v. City of L.A., 879 F.2d 481, 488 (9th
Fees and Expenses for Attorneys.
requests $40, 602.60 in attorney's fees and $640.20 in
non-taxable expenses for attorney David Lane. Doc. 106 at 6.
Plaintiff requests $73, 781.10 in attorney's fees and
$436.17 in non-taxable expenses for attorney Gregory Sisk.
Id. at 7. These figures include requested fee
enhancements based on two factors not subsumed in the initial
lodestar calculation: superior performance and providing an
incentive for attorneys to take civil rights cases that seek
only declaratory or injunctive relief. Doc. 106 at 11-13
(citing Kelly, 822 F.3d at 1102). Defendant concedes
that these fee requests, including the enhancements, are
appropriate. Doc. 111 at 1-2. The Court agrees and will award
the requested fees for Mr. Lane and Mr. Sisk.
Fees and Expenses for the University of St. Thomas.
requests $105, 073.25 in attorneys' fees and $5, 717.80
in non-taxable expenses for the University of St. Thomas.
Doc. 106 at 7. The requested attorneys' fees include $68,
182.70 for law-student work (376.7 hours billed at an hourly
rate of $181). Id. Defendant argues that an hourly
rate of $181 for law students is unreasonable. Doc. 111 at
hourly rates are not determined by the rates actually charged
in a case, but “by the rate prevailing in the community
for similar work performed by attorneys of comparable skill,
experience, and reputation.” Schwarz v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 73 F.3d 895, 908 (9th Cir.
1995) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Blum
v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984)
(“‘reasonable fees' under § 1988 are to
be calculated according to the prevailing market rates in the
relevant community”). The relevant community is
generally the forum in which the district court sits.
Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608 F.3d 446,
454 (9th Cir. 2010).
proposes $181 as an hourly rate that strikes a balance
between average billable rates for paralegals and junior
attorneys in Arizona. Doc. 106 at 16-17. According to Arizona
State Bar Association data, these rates were $105 for
paralegals in 2013 and $226 for junior attorneys in 2016.
Doc. 107 ¶ 31. Although the average of those two figures
is $165.50 (Doc. 112 at 10), Plaintiff requests a rate of
$181 to compensate the University of St. Thomas for the delay
in payment and reflect the significant contributions these
students made to briefing and oral argument before the Ninth
Circuit. Doc. 106 at 16-17; Doc. 107 ¶¶
counters that an hourly rate of $181 is excessive for law
students. Doc. 111 at 2-5. Defendant relies on decisions that
awarded or noted an award of fees at much lower rates, but
none of those cases addressed current rates in the Arizona
market. See Id. at 3 (citing Kelly, 822
F.3d at 1093 (noting that the district court permitted a $65
hourly rate for law students in an Idaho case); Nadarajah
v. Holder, 569 F.3d 906, 918 (9th Cir. 2009) ($75 hourly
rate for law student in a California case); Covington v.
District of Columbia, 57 F.3d 1101, 1106 (D.C. Cir.
1995) (noting that the district court permitted a $70 hourly
rate for law students in a Washington, D.C., case)).
next argues that the purpose of fee awards in civil rights
cases is to attract attorneys who would otherwise be unlikely
to take such cases. Doc. 111 at 4. An award of fees for
law-student work, Defendant argues, does not serve this
purpose. Id. Defendant cites no case that has denied
fees for law students on this ground, and experienced lawyers
likely are attracted to cases where they receive significant
research and briefing support from law students. Defendant
cites no case for the proposition that a law school may not
be compensated for its efforts to organize and support such a
clinic, and this Court recently has awarded fees to a law